China: Human rights - a long way to go before the Olympics

“Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.” Olympic Charter, Fundamental principles, paragraph 2.

Amnesty International UK Media Director Mike Blakemore said:

“Despite the promises given to the International Olympic Committee, serious violations of human rights continue in China.

“At least 3,400 people were executed last year, more than all other countries in the world added together. Hundreds of thousands of people are held without trial in ‘re-education’ through labour camps, Tiananmen Square protestors are still in jail, internet users have been imprisoned for up to 12 years and torture is rife in all places of detention.

“We will be monitoring and reporting on China’s progress in these areas over the next three years. And much progress is needed.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) may be particularly concerned by the violations of human rights experienced by Chinese citizens that are linked to China’s preparation for the Games. These include the imprisonment of individuals who have sent open letters to the IOC calling for improvements in China’s human rights, the thousands of Beijing residents forcibly evicted from their homes, many illegally, in the city’s preparation for the Games, and intensified suppression of groups that the authorities fear may embarrass the nation during the Games, to name a few.

Amnesty International is today releasing a dossier of concerns relating to China’s human rights record and a set of realistic, practical, steps that now need to be taken. The measures proposed would bring government practice closer in line with international human rights standards and the ideals of the Olympic Charter. Their implementation by the Chinese authorities is realistic within the remaining three years before the Games commence.

Amnesty International is calling on the Chinese authorities to:

  • Abolish the death penalty
  • Urgently reform the judicial system
  • Allow citizens full freedom of expression and association
  • Release all prisoners of conscience and those imprisoned for exercising their right to free expression, whether on the internet or other media
  • Provide justice for the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown
  • End forced evictions

(According to official Chinese reports upwards of 300,000 individuals have been relocated from their homes in Beijing in the preparation for the Games, although Amnesty International believes the actual number to be much higher. Many of these have been evicted without due process and without fair compensation. In addition, individuals have been arrested and imprisoned simply for protesting evictions from their homes - and some have disappeared -- their families not been informed of their place of detention).

Amnesty International continues to have broader human rights concerns in China and will be monitoring Chinese progress closely in these particular areas given their direct connection with its hosting of the Olympics.

Mike Blakemore added:

“We will be urging the International Olympic Committee and the wider Olympic movement to work together with our worldwide membership and in solidarity with human rights activists within China to press for concrete and positive human rights reform in China before August 2008.”

Background

In April, 2001, Liu Jingmin, Vice President of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Bid Committee stated “(B)y allowing Beijing to host the Games you will help the development of human rights.” Liu Qi, mayor of Beijing also pledged that by hosting the games, social progress and economic development in China would move forward, as would China’s human rights situation. Officials of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have also make clear the expectation that human rights in China should improve as a result of Beijing being chosen to host the Games.

A full text of Amnesty International’s recommendations is available on request from the press office.

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